The Difference Between Urgent and Important - Business Savvy Mama Podcast

The Difference Between Urgent and Important. And Why It Matters.

Do you spend too much time on urgent and not enough time on what’s important?

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Today we are going to explore the Eisenhower time management matrix to help you define your urgent versus important tasks.

Let’s start by defining the difference between urgent and important. And I think Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” does a better job than I could…So let’s hear how he breaks down the difference between urgent and important…

“Urgent matters are those that require immediate action. These are the visible issues that pop up and demand your attention NOW. Often, urgent matters come with clear consequences for not completing these tasks. Urgent tasks are unavoidable, but spending too much time putting out fires can produce a great deal of stress and could result in burnout.

Important matters, on the other hand, are those that contribute to long-term goals and life values. These items require planning and thoughtful action. When you focus on important matters you manage your time, energy, and attention rather than mindlessly expending these resources. What is important is subjective and depends on your own values and personal goals. No one else can define what is important for you.”

Stephen Covey

Learning to determine the difference between all the various combinations of urgent, not urgent, important, and not important, will help you define the priority tasks you need to focus on.

If you can use the tactics we talk about today with your to-do list to determine which quadrant of the matrix your task falls into, you can manage your time better. And complete the tasks with due dates that require your expertise. You can schedule the tasks that are important for you, your family, your growth, and your mental health. And determine what you should delegate or eliminate when you feel stressed or your schedule feels full.

Are you currently prioritizing your to-do list? Or do you give equal weight to all the tasks on your list? Which may make your list feel overwhelming or like it’s never complete?

But you might be thinking “I don’t have time to actually finish my tasks so I definitely don’t have extra time to delineate between urgent and important tasks.”

But what if by taking a few extra minutes, you would feel more in control. You could learn to delete the time-wasting to-dos that prevent you from spending time doing things you enjoy or with your family and friends.

You can start to develop a rhythm to your daily to-do routine. And spend less time on your work because the tasks you are dedicating your time to are having a greater impact on your business and your family. And you’ll be making room on your schedule for personal projects that enhance your life, improve your health, or just make you happy.

How much more present you can show up for your clients, co-workers, and family when you feel accomplished and fulfilled? You know this is a no-brainer…you want this life. And you can have it.

How to Determine What’s Urgent and Important

You just need to practice your prioritizing. So let’s dive into exactly how you determine which tasks are urgent and important. Your tasks will fall into one of 4 categories:

  • Urgent & Important
  • Not Urgent & Important
  • Urgent & Not Important
  • Not Urgent & Not Important

Your Urgent and Important Tasks require you to take action because there is a deadline or a consequence if you don’t complete them. It might be paying bills, work for a client, or getting an oil change in your car. If you heard my episode last week on the 4 D’s of Time Management, these Urgent and Important Tasks would fall in the “Do It” category. It must be done and avoiding it won’t make it go away, it will just delay a consequence. So just do it.

Next, we have your Important but Not Urgent Tasks…these tasks help you reach your overall business, personal, or family goals. But they usually don’t have a deadline or consequence. And so we put them off in favor of those tasks that ARE urgent. But often, these activities have the biggest impact on us reaching our goals, even more so than the urgent tasks. Keeping our mental and physical health in order, spending time with our family or on ourselves, learning new skills, or growing our community has a huge influence on our success. Yet we often neglect these important tasks. So how do we fix it? We schedule time for these. Put it on the schedule. Make it a date.

And you may be thinking now “but if I have to do the urgent and I have to schedule the important, there is no way I’ll get it all done”. A-ha…I give Quadrant 3. The Urgent but Not Important Tasks…

The magic of quadrant 3 is that it does not require your specific zone of genius. These are the tasks you delegate to help offload some of the weight of your schedule. Sure there is a consequence if you don’t do the dishes, but does it require your hands? Or could you ask your family to help? Can you offload your social media or accounting to someone else? Can you turn off notifications for your email or text messages so you control what is urgent? If it is truly urgent and important, if there is a deadline or consequence, it is part of your quadrant 1. You know what that means for you. Don’t let someone else determine your priorities.

And finally, quadrant 4 is your not urgent and not important tasks. These would technically fall into the “Delete It” category. (Although I don’t think many of us have Quadrant 4 tasks like endlessly scrolling social media or binging 12 hours of Netflix on our to-do list.) You do deserve downtime. But is focusing your downtime on not urgent, not important tasks preventing you from doing a task you’ve deemed important? Like exercising? Or spending time with family? Or taking up a new skill? Important doesn’t have to mean “work” per see. It can just mean a task that you’ve decided it is something that is valuable to your life. And if you have a choice, wouldn’t you want to choose something valuable?

Ok, so a quick review before you tackle prioritizing your to-do list. Here’s a breakdown of what’s urgent, what’s important, and what’s not:

Eisenhower Time Management Matrix - Urgent and Important Tasks
  • Quadrant 1 is your Urgent and Important tasks. There is an approaching deadline or consequence to inaction. You must do these tasks ASAP.
  • Quadrant 2 is your Important not Urgent tasks. Things that enhance your life or business like exercise, spending time with family, or networking with fellow business owners. Get these tasks on to your schedule at specific times.
  • Quadrant 3 is your Urgent but Not Important tasks. These activities will need completed but don’t require your specific expertise. Or may feel like they need to be done NOW because the person emailing, texting, or asking you for help assigns a deadline on their terms, not yours. These are tasks you can delegate or delay.
  • Quadrant 4 is Not Urgent and Not Important. Delete these tasks from your routine. Or at the very least push them off until you’ve completed the urgent and important for the day.

Ready to experience better mental, physical, and emotional health without sacrificing additional time and energy? Let’s jump on a free, no-obligation 15-minute clarity call to see how I can help you experience more fun & fulfillment in your work and home life.


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